Americas editor comment: Disruptive influences - FREE

Americas editor comment: Disruptive influences - FREE

Disruption was the name of the game at this year’s Risk and Insurance Management Society’s annual gathering, with brokers, underwriters and corporates all talking about the way the industry and risk exposure is changing.

The US insurance market is going through a considerable amount of change, with both existing players and more recent entrants to the sector all ramping up their operations. On the underwriting side, that has seen companies such as Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, Aspen Insurance and Munich Re’s Corporate Insurance Partner arm all looking to grow their well-established operations in the US.

At the same time, some of the newer entities like Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance are continuing on their path of growth, while Everest Re’s insurance offering – Everest National – is also looking to grow.

Furthermore, QBE, which after suffering significant losses in 2012 led to its retrenchment in the North American market, is now once again looking to ramp up its commitment to the region. That has led to QBE hiring staff and building out is operations, albeit nowhere near to the same extent as under Frank O’Halloran. Instead, this more measured approach is designed to grow QBE’s North American business in a careful fashion.

What is making it easier is the fallout from some of the largest insurers in the market undertaking quite major changes at the hearts of their operations.

Arguably the most high profile example of this is American International Group which, under pressure from some of the more vocal elements of its shareholder group, has undertaken a strategic review and overhauled its business. As part of this, the company has either exited or considerably scaled back its commitment in some lines of business such as the environmental and construction casualty sectors in North America, as well as some trucking risks.

This has led to some books of business coming back onto the market for the first time in many years, with underwriters at other companies now scrambling around to ensure they get the opportunity to pitch to those accounts that have become available.

Both Liberty Mutual and Zurich Insurance Group are others who have experienced a degree of disruption recently.

It is not only on the underwriting side of the business where this disruption is evident however, with the broking sector also undergoing some significant changes. Much of the change can be levelled at the introduction and subsequent rise of JLT Specialty USA.

Since launching in the summer of 2014, the specialty US retail arm of JLT has gone on a major expansion plan to build out its business. As highlighted in this month’s edition of the magazine, that growth is expected to continue with yet more staff set to make the move to the business before the end of the year.

Elsewhere, Arthur J Gallagher continues on its rampant expansion through acquisition with the broker already adding several new businesses to its roster in the first few months of this year.

Many of these changes are in response to the evolving dynamic of doing business in North America, but the original insureds – the clients – are also undergoing major changes in their exposure.

The most notable example of this can be seen in the continued rise of the cyber liability market. During RIMS, cyber was once again one of the major topics that attendees talked about at length with the exposure continuing to cause many risk managers sleepless nights.

The disruption caused by this risk is sizeable, but it is just one of several major worries that are causing corporates concern. Others including contingent business interruption and supply chain exposure continue to provide headaches to risk managers, and while the industry has sought to offset some of these exposures, they certainly remain an issue.

Hopefully at next year’s conference, risk managers will have successfully moved on from these disruptive issues, although considering they have been talked about at each of the last three events, if not more, then in all likelihood they will remain a challenge to the industry.

By Christopher Munro - christopher.munro@euromoneyplc.com

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